Born of the Sea

Preparing for a phased retirement on the sea. Muirgen (Gaelic for 'born of the sea')

20 February 2024
17 February 2024 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
09 February 2024
08 February 2024 | Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes
18 January 2024 | Seaworth's Bluff, Antigua
09 January 2024 | Barbuda
02 January 2024
30 December 2023 | UK to Antigua
16 December 2023
11 September 2023
11 September 2023
08 September 2023

A Change of Plan

20 February 2024
Donna Cariss
Friday 16th February, we had a great sail from Jolly Harbour to Low Bay, Barbuda. The sails were up within 15 minutes of leaving, so around 0800 hours. I took the helm for the first couple of hours, as the wind speed was up and down and the direction varied, due to the topography of the land. I enjoy helming under these conditions and it saves battery power if the autohelm isn't in use. Once we were well clear of land, we had an almost constant wind and not too much swell, so I let the autohelm take over. We had the fishing line out but failed to catch anything but seagrass today, which was disappointing, following the successful catches we had the last time we made this trip. There must have been fish around, in the shallows off Barbuda, as we saw eagle rays jumping out of the water in pursuit but our line was in by then, due to the shallow depths and reefs. We anchored in the north of Low Bay at 1445 hours. There was a big, rolling swell coming in from the northwest, despite and easterly wind and and easterly swell between Antigua and Barbuda but we were partially protected by the outlying reefs. After last night's over-indulgence, we had an alcohol free Friday. I didn't sleep at all well and I was as stiff as a board next morning.
There wasn't enough wind to sail to St Barts on Saturday, so we relaxed on board all day. By lunchtime, all the other yachts and cats had departed and we were alone until a catamaran made its way through the outlying reefs, just before sunset. It anchored well out from the beach, so we didn't make their acquaintance. Earlier, we had upped anchor and gone to look at conditions a few hundred metres south but the rocking and rolling there was worse, so we returned to our original anchorage. The big swells eased late evening and I had a much better night's sleep.
On Sunday morning we were up at 0545 and the anchor was raised at 0615, when we had enough light to see the waves breaking on the reefs. We raised the mainsail straight away and motored out between the reefs. The swell was much bigger outside the reefs and there was no wind that early in the morning. As the wind picked up, the mainsail started to assist with our progress under engine but the swell coming out of the north was so big that the sail was collapsing and banging with each roll. There certainly wasn't enough wind to sail alone in those conditions. Predict Wind had forecast a northerly swell but of a maximum 1 metre and we had 3 metres, occasionally more. We saw many flying fish, on both sides of the boat and then at 0920 we caught a magnificent barracuda, which we released as it was too big to safely eat. With the wind behind us increasing, we had a southeasterly swell now, which was competing with the swell from the north and creating a very confused sea and we were corkscrewing in the waves. It was like being on a rollercoaster that you couldn't get off. The wind was coming round too and we were having to adjust our course to keep the wind in the mainsail, as we didn't fancy our chances of having the sail on the starboard side while the northerly swell was winning the fight. Eventually though, the south-easterly swell won out and we jibed the mainsail at 1020 hours. At 1115, I sighted St Kitts off to the portside and 30 minutes later, St Barts almost on the nose but we still had a long way to go. As we later crossed into French waters, we almost caught 2 fishing pots, blue to match the sea and extremely hard to spot in the swell. That led to us having to do pot watch for the remainder of the journey but we only saw another 2 sets. When we came into sight of Fort Gustavia, we realised why. The place is full of superyachts that would just rip up any pots that had been laid. We couldn't quite believe our eyes at the vast number of boats on mooring buoys and in the anchorages, from small yachts to 90 metre gin palaces. It was ridiculously busy. We still had the mainsail up, as it had been too rough to drop it before rounding the end of St Barts, so we found a small space, turned head to wind and dropped it in one. Pete tidied it up while I idled round, under engine, avoiding the traffic and the anchored boats. Having toured around, we eventually anchored in 12 metres of water in Anse Gaston, surrounded by superyachts. When darkness fell, it was like being at Blackpool illuminations. Other than the sound of goats on the hillside, this was not the place for us. We didn't go ashore to clear in, choosing to spend a night at anchor under the yellow Q flag and we were in bed at 8pm. It had been another frustrating passage. It was very windy overnight and the boat was rolling but I managed to sleep in and off, in the saloon berth, getting up every so often to check that we hadn't dragged.
We departed St Barts at 0637 and motored across to Ile Fourchue, 3 miles to the north, It's a private island, with 10 free mooring buoys in the bay and you are allowed to stay for up to 7 days. We squeezed between the reef and the land and were pleased to see that we had a choice of 2 buoys, so we elected to take the one closer in shore. It took 2 attempts to hook the buoy, as the wind was blowing the nose off and I also couldn't see the buoy from the helm once we were close to it. Once we were on, we had some breakfast and a snooze in the cockpit. The island is like a Scottish outcrop, rather than a Caribbean island and is reported as having good hiking, so we went ashore by dinghy, wearing walking boots. There were no discernible trails, so we made our way upwards, through the scrub. Pete headed higher than me, as I was concerned about the scramble back down but the views were magnificent anyway. You could see St Barts and St Martin very easily and had a good view of the anchorage. Pete startled a very large iguana. We returned to the beach and headed in the other direction, with Pete climbing up to get photos of the boobies and their chicks. It was hot on the land, with no breeze there and we were burning, so returned to the boat and had a swim to cool off. Then Pete suggested that, as we had 2000 miles to go to Guatemala, that we up anchor and head over to St Martin, as we didn't really have time to hang around. We had 100 days to get to our final destination, so needed to average 20 miles a day. There would be some very long passages on the way, meaning we had some time to spare but not very much. I wasn't best pleased to be rushing along yet again. It was just under 20 miles to St Martin and we hoped to make some progress sailing downwind under the foresail but the strong wind from the morning had gone, so it was another motorsail for the 9 miles across the sea and the 10 miles down and round the coast. St Martin / St Maarten is half French and half Dutch and we were sailing in Dutch waters to get to the French side. The Dutch side is quite industrial and full of high rise buildings, hotels and casinos, while the French side is more rustic. As we passed the airport, just beyond the safety buoys, the planes were coming in thick and fast and very low overhead. It was fascinating to see. The planes were practically taking peoples' heads off on the beach as they came in to land. As we rounded the point, the wind picked up and we were doing 7 to 8 knots for a time, before we needed to drop the foresail as the wind came round on the nose, for the last couple of miles into Baie de Marigot. It was busy but not like Fort Gustavia and we found a good place to anchor in around 3 metres of water. It was 1645, so too late to go ashore to clear in. We had a very comfortable night at anchor, interrupted by me having a strop about the pressure of having to cover 2000 miles in 100 days, alongside all the bureaucracy of getting into the USVIs and Puerto Rico.
Next morning, we hailed a passing dinghy, to get some information on where to clear in, fill up with diesel and water. The young Aussie couple were really helpful and we were soon taking Muirgen over to the dock, which was on the starboard side of the canal that runs into the lagoon and Simpson Bay. The canal is only about 30 feet wide, so we reversed in beyond the dock and then eased forward, allowing the wind to blow us on. A friendly guy, fluent in French and English, welcomed us and set about filling us up with diesel and making the water hose available. We moved off again and anchored close by, so that we could return in the dinghy to clear in at the chandlery, La Marine. It was very easy to clear in using the computer and there was no charge. Another friendly and dual language guy reviewed the print out, checked the passports and ships papers and stamped and signed the paperwork. We purchased courtesy flags for the USA and Puerto Rico, served by a friendly and dual language lady, before heading through the canal and into the lagoon to see what was there. We had a late breakfast at Cafe Natural, croissants and coffee and an enjoyable chat with the owner and her 10 year old daughter, the latter being fluent in English, French and Spanish, as well as having some Creole. We were impressed. On our return, we picked up bottled water from a small supermarket and stopped by Island Water World to change our gas bottle. There is everything here in Marigot, St Martin that a sailor could need. Back on board, we picked up our anchor and relocated closer to the dinghy dock near the marina, so we could go ashore to provision the boat. We had been told that the Super U, 15 minutes walk away delivered to the dinghy dock, which was ideal for us, as we wouldn't be able to carry everything we wanted to buy. While in France, we wanted to purchase plenty of tinned food, cassoulet, vegetables, potato gratin, plus pasta and sauces, to ensure that we could eat well when we were in Cuba. We also bought cheap bags of spaghetti for the Cuban people, who struggle to buy pasta, as well as meat and poultry. Pete enquired about delivery at the supermarket and they said they only did that between 8am and 10am but they would call a taxi for us when we were ready to check out, so we did our big shop. We ended up sharing a taxi with a German couple, which was just as well as they charged us €30 for the 5 minute journey back to the dinghy dock. We loaded up the dinghy and Pete had to leave me on the dock with a few items, as there was no more room. Having stowed away the fresh food, we had a bite to eat before putting away the rest of our shop. So, we had spent a couple of hundred quid provisioning for the longterm, when Pete suggested that we had an alternative to going to Guatemala and it was something that I had thought about myself overnight. If we didn't head any further west, we could change our minds and return south and leave the boat in Grenada, which is south of the hurricane belt, for the summer. It was 428 miles to Grenada in a straight line. The words were out of his mouth and he couldn't take them back. The decision was made to spend a leisurely 100 days exploring the islands between St Martin and Grenada, delaying the sail to Guatemala for at least a year. We spent a couple of hours doing research and sending emails before taking the dinghy to a Breton bar for a beverage. The bar / restaurant, The Dock, was on the canal-side, going into the lagoon and it was interesting to watch the boats coming and going. We spotted our Danish friend, met in Guadeloupe, passing in his dinghy, along with his son, his French bulldog and some other family members and hailed him for a chat. Fred(erique), the owner of the bar, was very welcoming and friendly and enjoyed getting me to converse in French, although he was fluent in English. We hadn't gone there to eat but the smell of the pizzas got to us eventually and we ended up sharing one; it was delicious. Back on board, it was lovely to know that there would be no hard slog to Guatemala and that we could relax and enjoy our time in St Martin. WE would just need to eat cassoulet for the next 3 months!

A Jolly Life

17 February 2024 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
Donna Cariss
Life on board in Jolly Harbour is a round of social occasions, mixed with daily chores, boat maintenance, swimming (off the boat and in the JH pool) and relaxing. The Jolly Harbour Yacht Club meets at La Cantina (formerly Westpoint), every Thursday and Saturday evening, from 5pm happy hour until whenever but it's not usually a late night out. There's always someone new to meet, who has just returned to their villa, come back after Christmas at home, or just sailed in. Here's a mention for all the people we have met:
- Jimbo and Lil (James & Sherille), on Freedom Girl (catamaran), who have really looked after us, taking us places in their truck, inviting us to events and forever picking us up in their dinghy, which is bigger, deeper, faster and much drier than ours. Friends for life! xxx
- Robin, moored in the marina on monohull, Circus and later his lady friend, Liz, who came for a 14 day stay. Thanks for the Lucy light, for charging the laptop and having your son bring new guitar strings..
- John and Ali, have a villa in Jolly Harbour and bought Essex Girl (Boston Whaler) from our great friends, Derek and Linda Faint. Thanks for your hospitality; we really enjoyed the barbecue and watching 'Walking on Sunshine' on your deck. Thanks again for the download of books for my kindle; that will keep me going for a while!
- Graham and Liz, formerly of Full Monty, which we raced on when we visited Jolly Harbour some years ago.
- Guy and Michelle (plus friends, Rob and Lisa), current owners of Full Monty. Great chatting with you and really loved the drink and dancing on board the night before you left for Guadeloupe, Dominica and beyond. Hope to see you again.
- Colin and Jane, who have a villa in JH and yacht Seal. Thanks for your hospitality on Saturday. Pete really enjoyed racing down to Falmouth with you and your crew, Colin.
- John C - Great chatting with you at the yacht club and on the beach. Love your sense of humour!
- Paul and Margarite - Enjoyed our chat at the yacht club.
- Bryan and Nancy - Lovely to meet you and chat at La Cantina. Hope you get some great hikes in.
- Tim and Lucy, villa in JH and yacht Pims. Thanks for having Pete (and Tim) on board to race before I arrived.
- Steve and Nicky, next door but one to Derek and Linda. Enjoyed our chat at the beach barbecue and we can't thank you enough for your help, welcome and especially for doing our laundry. That really goes beyond the call of duty (especially Pete's worn out underwear!).
- Molly, lovely swim at the beach and you are not a nerd and you're very brave being out here on your own!
- Simon, who has lived everywhere and will embark on the ARC Plus in 2025 and go round the World with his partner and their daughter, before she's four years old. I hope everything goes according to plan.
- Roger, Linda and Kerry - Lovely to meet you.
- Jane - We hope you get lots of sailing in this season and sorry if we don't get to go out for a day with you, as promised, given your ripped foresail.
- Nick and Debs, from Huddersfield and here for a month. Was great chatting to fellow Yorkshire people! Sorry that you didn't come to the barbecue but glad you went sailing with Jane.
- Peter and Joelle - Enjoyed some nice chats and glad you liked the photos from the start of the yacht race.
- Helen and Bill - Great to meet 'the Duchess' at last. Lovely times with you both, with Derek and Linda.
- Sally and Bob - Met you at last, Sally, at the Valentine's regatta party and what a pleasure. Realised that we already knew Bob, from Full Monty, in 2016. Bob awarded me the bottle of run for most influential person on the boat, when Full Monty won the Saturday race. Pete regrets it to this day!
- Glynnis and Peter - Thank you for introducing yourself, Glynnis, at the Valentine's regatta party, as I had heard your name mentioned often by Jimbo and Lil, Derek and Linda etc.

We have been made very welcome by everyone in Jolly Harbour and apologies to anyone I have missed.

Chores:
- Shopping for food and drinks. As we aren't in the marina, that requires an often wet trip by dinghy
- Taking the rubbish ashore. It's amazing how much rubbish you make on board!
- Doing the laundry
- Cleaning the galley, both heads (toilets), all of the internal woodwork and changing the bedding
- Washing the boat and polishing all the stainless steel
- Scrubbing the dinghy and pumping out water from the frequent, heavy rain
- Filling up with water and fuel at the dock, either motoring in and pulling alongside, or collecting in empty 5 litre bottles

Maintenance completed (to date):
- Pete went up Robin's mast, 3 times, to retrieve and return windvane and replace a part. Nice and easy with his electric winches!
- Repairs to cruising shute and sprayhood at sailmakers in English Harbour (rather expensive!)
- Other small repairs required following minor damage during Atlantic crossing
- Purchased tiller extension and direct feed fuel canister for dinghy and fitted them
- Made a temporary bridle for the anchor chain, to reduce noise as boat swings at anchor
- Fitting new trampoline on Freedom Girl
- Installing single line reefing on Freedom Girl

Key events and other items:
- Friday 12th January - The authorities let the sewage outflow go from Poo Corner into the anchorage. It smelled to high heaven and we won't be swimming off the boat in a while! The almost new moon that night was like a smile, hanging in the sky.
- Sunday 14th January - There was a commotion in the anchorage. Jimbo was in his dinghy and shouting his head off. Why? Fort, on the big catamaran (Mo Orea), next to us, had kicked a kitten off his foredeck and into the sea. The kitten started swimming for shore, realised it was too far and managed to get back to the stern and climb onto the bottom step of the catamaran. Luckily, Chris, who owned the kitten and Jimbo arrived in time to pick it up before Fort dispatched it again. Robyn (Fort's wife) said she was allergic to cats. Jimbo's response, 'and I'm allergic to f*cking Americans, W*nker!'. The incident was distressing but the punchline was hilarious, especially in Jimbo's southern accent. Mo Orea sailed off shortly after and the incident was reported on Jollywood. The catamaran is back in the marina now though, with the owners keeping a low profile.
- Sunday 14th January - Jimbo and Lil drove us to Dennis's beach for the afternoon, where we met up with John and Ali and John C, to have a picnic, swim and listen to the steel band at Dennis's (restaurant). Full Monty dropped anchor in the bay and Guy, Michelle, Lisa and Rob joined us on the beach. Lovely place to swim. Afterwards, we all went to Carla's for her secret recipe rum punch, which was lethal.
- The following days and nights, until the weekend, had strong winds and intermittent, heavy rain.
- Tuesday 16th January - Went to Al Porto for tea with Jimbo and Lil. It's pizza special night - 33 XCD (less than £10) for any pizza, instead of 59 XCD. On our way back, in the dinghy, stopped at Full Monty to say bye to Guy and Michelle and friends, who were heading south for 3 months. Drinks flowed and we danced on deck.
- Wednesday 17th January - Day sail. See separate blog.
- Thursday 18th January - Following the yacht club 'meeting', we went to John and Ali's, with Jimbo and Lil, to have a barbecue and watch the film 'Walking on Sunshine', which is a film set in Italy and wall to wall 80's hit music. It was a great night. My sandals fell apart, walking to La Cantina, so I was barefoot walking back to John and Ali's and my feet were black. Must have rubbed off on the decking, while dancing, at John and Ali's, as my feet were clean(ish) when I arrived back on the boat.
- Friday 19th January - Awoke early and moved the boat from the anchorage to Derek and Linda's dock, in anticipation of very strong winds today and next week. The boat was fine at anchor but we were already getting wet taking the dinghy to shore, so really needed to be closer if it was going to get rough. It was 0645 and there was a dinghy on the dock but luckily the neighbours were up and able to move it. We officially met Steve (ex Worcester and England cricketer) and Nicky Rhodes, next door but one, in the afternoon and it turned out that Pete and Steve went to neighbouring schools and were only a year apart in age.
- Saturday 20th January - Day of the big race from Jolly Harbour to Falmouth and back via Sand Island, with yachts from Falmouth doing the reverse. Pete and Jimbo were raced on Seal (Colin's boat) and I went walking with Lil, after having a cuppa with Jane. It was a beautiful day and the views from Reids Point were amazing. We walked along Jolly Beach, from one end to the other and back. The water was aquamarine; gorgeous.
- Sunday 21st January - The yacht club held a barbecue on Jolly Beach. Everyone took their own food, drinks, tables, chairs and umbrellas and there must have been over 40 of us. Everyone was there. We went round in the dinghy and got drowned as we came round the headland but the return trip was fine. It was a fantastic afternoon of chatter and swimming.
- Tuesday 23rd January - A stormy day with torrential rain. Jimbo and Lil drove us up to St Johns so we could visit the Cuban embassy to obtain visas. After a long search, we found the building, behind a high stone wall and we pressed the buzzer on the intercom by the gate, leaving Jimbo and Lil in the car. We were admitted and waved over to the entrance door. Within seconds, the ambassador appeared and greeted us warmly, shaking our hands and enquiring about our plans and pointing out for us where the marinas were for checking in. He then left us in the care of two ladies, to prepare our tourist cards. Both of them and the receptionist were friendly and welcoming too. There was some confusion over our passports, as I have a new British passport and Pete still has a burgundy EU one and more confusion over what to put in the different fields for nationality, country of residence and country of issue, as one wanted UK, one GBR and another England. Eventually the online forms were sorted and the tourist cards printed for us to check, before being officially stamped. The process took around 40 minutes but was a great experience. The ambassador returned to say goodbye and to wish us a great time sailing and when in Cuba, saying that, despite their economic problems, the country and its people are lovely. What a great experience.
After visting Ooops for cheap beer, the gas place and a couple of hardware stores, we returned to JH and went to Petal's Cafe for chicken rotis for lunch; delicious!
- Thursday 25th January - Attempting to apply for our ESTAs online, as need this visa waiver to enter the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Struggling to upload our passport photos though and it turns out that the system is down for routine maintenance! After 3 days of trying, we eventually completed the process and were rewarded 2 days later with confirmation by email.
- Saturday 27th January - St Muirgen's Day; very significant for us. Persuaded Pete to do a walk to Reeds Point, where we bumped into Jimbo and Lil. Back on board Muirgen, on the dock, we took photos of the yachts before the race start and shared them later at the yacht club.
- Sunday 28th January - Left the dock at 0730 and went to fill up with water, before anchoring in Mosquito Cove. Then we went to check out, ahead of our sail to Guadeloupe. All went well for us but the customs lady gave hell to everyone else. We provisioned for the trip and then helped Jimbo fit his new trampoline on his cat. Then we upped anchor and moved round the headland to Jolly Beach, laid anchor and went ashore. There we met up with Wednesday Belles, Helena Bright and Sharon Mattison and their husbands, Andrew and Ian, for a few drinks and news from Howden. They were on a P&O cruise. Our next stop was Dennis's beach, where we anchored, went ashore and met up with Jimbo, Lil, John, Ali, John C and others. An hour later, we were anchoring for the fourth time, at Piccard's Bay, to go to Carla's for rum punch with the same group of people. There was much frivolity and dancing. We remained at anchor overnight, with plans to leave at 0700 hours for Guadeloupe (see separate blog).
- Tuesday 6th February - Derek and Linda had arrived when we returned to Jolly Harbour and we spent a pleasant evening with them on their terrace, catching up.
- Wednesday 7th February - A day of catching up with everyone, back in JH, until the storm kicked in (see separate blog post). Had drinks on Joyful Surprise, with Dave, Seani and their 2 dogs, whom we had met briefly in Guadeloupe.
- Friday 9th February - Lunch at Morlene's; typical Caribbean food and hospitality. Gorgeous tabby kittens to play with too.
- Saturday 10th February - Rained all day, for day 1 of the Valentine's Regatta. We weren't racing, so had a nice lazy day reading. Big decision about what to wear for the party, as the weather was cool, breezy and there was still the threat of rain. White jeans and a top won out but I should have gone with the strappy dress as the sun came out before dusk, the wind dropped and it was hot and sweaty on the dance floor! What a fantastic night was had by all.
- Sunday 11th February - Valentine's Regatta day 2 dawned bright, breezy and warm. Pete and I walked up to Reeds Point to take photos of the first race. Pete's camera batteries were flat, so the photos had to be taken with my mobile. Great prize presentation at La Cantina, with Seal taking the overall regatta winner, with 7 bullets.
- Monday 12th February - Went to John C's first thing to buy Cuban pesos from his friend, Rob. Black market rate of 165 to the US dollar, versus official rate of 24 and Cuban government rate of 120.
- Tuesday 13th February - Having spent the day helping Jimbo set up his single line reefing, went for sundowners at the Top Up bar, on the beach, with Derek and Linda, joining the usual crowd. Shrove Tuesday but never got round to making the pancakes!
- Wednesday 14th February - Day 2 on the single line reefing and everything works. Went to Arlecchinos, with Derek and Linda for the Valentines menu. Absolutely amazing food and service again and the 3 courses, fizz and wine were less expensive than the 2 courses we had at New Year. Wahoo carpaccio, with chilli oil and avocado cream was delicious.
- Thursday 15th February - Pete is off building furniture with Jimbo for a friend and looking forward to the reward of beer! Our final yacht club night; so lovely to see everyone. We look forward to seeing you all again, hopefully at the reunion in Eastbourne.

On Friday morning, with sore heads, we departed for Barbuda, passing Freedom Girl, as we headed out of the anchorage. Thanks for the send off guys. The less said, the better!

A Storm in the Tropics

09 February 2024
Donna Cariss
Everyone was talking about the heavy rain and potential swell from rare westerly winds and all of the charter boats were back in the marina. There were far fewer boats in Mosquito Cove and Jolly Beach than usual. We had anchored quite close to the beach on Tuesday and I was concerned about running aground if the wind turned west and we turned stern to the beach, especially if the swell got up. I put the instruments on to check the depth and we had between 0 and 0.2m under the keel, plus half a metre extra that we offset, in case anyone else is helming the boat. Pete made tea and said he wasn't concerned. Just after dark, we touched the bottom, very briefly, so we needed to move. The 2 yachts behind us didn't have their anchor lights on, so it was difficult to see where they were but we managed to anchor again without hitting anything, Pete having rejected my suggestion that we move to Derek's dock.
Shortly afterwards, we started to see flashes of sheet lightning, behind Five Islands but there was no wind or rain yet. As we were close to boats with no lights, with impending bad weather, Pete decided to sleep in the cockpit and keep watch. I went to bed and watched the lightning flashing through the hatch. Next came the thunder and then the rain, which was torrential. The wind changed direction and started to increase, so all the boats turned through 180 degrees. We had 30 metres of chain out and it soon became apparent to Pete that the yacht behind us had much less, as our chain extended and we came right alongside. At 0230 hours, he shouted me to put the engine batteries and instruments on, put some clothes on and take the helm. I grabbed a little cagoul to put over my shortie nightdress and out I went into the torrential rain. It was a difficult job at the helm, avoiding the other yachts, whilst Pete raised the anchor. It was now too windy to move to the dock, so we decided to head out to deeper water, beyond the channel, away from other boats. Visibility was terrible, due to the rain and there were more yachts and cats without lights. We could really only see then when the lightning lit up the sky. We anchored with 2.5 metres under the keel, to the north of Reeds Point, where we had some light from the houses up on the hillside. Even then, we spotted another yacht without lights, about 100 metres away from us. The swell was slowly increasing from the northwest and we were rocking from side to side. My clothes and hair were plastered to me and Pete's clothes were the same (obviously not the hair), so we stripped off in the cockpit and dried off under the sprayhood, as best we could. Pete went to bed in the saloon and I sat up top to do anchor watch until dawn. There were no further incidents. Around 0645 hours, we decided to make the move to Derek and Linda's dock but first Pete had to motor the dinghy round in circles at speed to empty out the rainwater, as it was too heavy to tow. When we arrived, we were greeted with offers of a shower and breakfast. That was followed by tea and cake, on the terrace, where we were joined by Helen and Bill, then a glass of wine. Pete and Derek nipped to the Epicurian to buy a take-away lunch, after which we both needed a snooze, before going to the yacht club. The rain continued to come down all day and through Thursday night, eventually stopping around 2am on Friday. On Friday morning, we hung out all of the wet clothes and towels, on the rail, to dry.
It was said that Montego Bay, Jamaica was badly hit by the storm and that the BVIs also suffered and a flight to Antigua had to be diverted to St Kitts.

French Antilles

08 February 2024 | Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes
Donna Cariss
We departed Piccard's Bay at 0720, with sunshine and a very light breeze, which increased to a pleasant 12 knots as we came out of the shelter of the headland. The sea was calm and with the foresail out, it looked like we would have a comfortable sail south to Guadeloupe. We could see rain over towards Monserrat, to the southwest of us but thought we might just avoid it as we turned south. No such luck; we were hit by a sudden squall, with torrential rain and winds of 22 to 27 knots that were veering wildly. I was already soaked through but Pete manned up to take the helm and instructed me to shelter under the sprayhood. We thought the squall would pass through in 5 or 10 minutes but 30 minutes later we were still battling with it and not making much progress south, as we tacked back and forth. We put the engine on and tried motoring but with the wind and the swell, we were struggling to make 3 knots. Eventually, we took the decision to abandon the trip to Guadeloupe, for today and head east, into Carlisle Bay. I turned off the AIS as we were now effectively illegal immigrants, having checked out of Antigua 24 hours beforehand.
Carlisle Bay was lovely and mostly protected from the wind and some of the swell. The rain came and went all day but in between we had time to fish. Pete caught 2 yellow tail snapper, one too small to land and the other a very fine specimen of about 15 inches. He let the pretty thing go just before I read on Google that it was very good eating. Later he foul-hooked a garfish, which was also released. Chicken for tea, again, tonight then! We also saw a lovely turtle swimming around the yacht and a small shark swimming underneath. By 7pm, we were in our bunks to get some sleep before an early start for Guadeloupe. Unfortunately, it was a roly night.
On Tuesday morning, we were up before the larks, at 0355 hours and we were on our way out of Carlisle Bay by 0415. It was dark, with no visible moon but it was warm and dry and there wasn't much breeze. There was still a swell from the east though, the result of yesterday's inclement weather. The sunrise wasn't visible, due to low cloud and I went below to the lee berth for an hour, to rest my eyes, having been disturbed all night by the rocking and rolling at anchor. We had a pleasant crossing, under engine until the last half an hour or so, as there was no wind until we closed in on land. the 10 hour trip to Des Haies seemed to pass quite quickly. We saw a few other yachts heading in the opposite direction but nothing close enough to wave to. Guadeloupe is French, as evidenced by the vast number of fishing pots dotting the sea for the last 8 or so miles but we managed to avoid them all. We anchored in Des Haies and went ashore to check in. We knew that it had moved from the Pelican to somewhere else but it wasn't clear exactly where. We were told to go up the hill, towards the ferry, to the customs office (Douane), which we found but it was closed, so we gave up and returned to the boat, via a bar to get some wifi. On the way, we passed 'Lime in Time', a yacht from Jolly Harbour, owned by Billy, from Liverpool, so we had a quick chat. We snorkelled from the boat, spotting turtles and an octopus. I was stung by something unseen in the water, potentially jellyfish tentacles in the seaweed. We wasted white wine vinegar to clear the sting and any infection. Bedtime came nice and early, at 8pm and we slept soundly.
We didn't get up until 8am, so had 12 hours sleep; not unusual for Pete but approaching a record for me. We headed for shore, in the dinghy, to look for the check-in again. We wandered down the main street, avoiding the cockerels and chickens that were roaming the street and beach and found a small portacabin on the side of the fishing harbour. Yesterday it had been closed up but this morning, the blinds were open. We had found the latest place to check in, which had moved since the day before. The procedure was simple; fill out a form, get it stamped and pay €5. They didn't look at our passports or the ship's papers. We called at the Boulangerie for a coffee and to buy a baguette and 2 pain au chocolat for tomorrow's breakfast. It was great to be en France! There we met Ricky, a US (female) marine biologist and solo sailor. A very interesting and thought provoking conversation; lovely to meet you.
We motored the 10 miles down to Pigeon Island, a marine conservation area, founded by Jacques Cousteau and anchored off the 'mainland' beach, outside the protected area. Then we realised that we had anchored next door to Billy again. We snorkelled right beside the boat, with a large turtle which was feeding off the bottom and coming up for air every few minutes. Pete even managed to dive down and scratch its shell. A Danish boat anchored between us and Billy and swam over to introduce himself and tell us how much chain he had out. This is important as in Guadeloupe, in most of the anchorages, the boats swing at very different angles, meaning we could come stern to stern at some point. Pete invited the guy aboard and gave him a beer and by the time he left it was time for us to take the dinghy over to Pigeon Island to snorkel on the reefs. Ricky had said that we would enjoy it but it wouldn't be spectacular compared to the places that we had dived and she was bob on. The reef fish were pretty and the coral a bit more colourful than we have seen so far in Antigua and Barbuda but nothing like the Red Sea or the Maldives. We completely missed the Jacques Cousteau monument at 6 metres depth though, not that I knew I was supposed to look for it.
During the night, we had to re-anchor, as the wind had turned and we were extremely close to an uninhabited catamaran that was on a mooring buoy and therefore not moving very far. We managed to move closer to shore without hitting anything, including the yacht alongside that had no anchor light.
Today was all about the shopping at Carrefour. We were up early, eating the warmed pain au chocolat for breakfast before motoring a mile down the beach to drop anchor opposite the small boat harbour at Pigeon. First priority, having gone ashore in the dinghy, was to find some free wifi. I had received a 'welcome to the EU' message from EE, so wanted to top up my account and activate a pack to use EU data and we also needed to top up Revolut and transfer money into Euros. We found 'Le Fromage', a tiny little cafe bar and ordered coffee. The choice was espresso or La Longue (tall) and as I don't really like coffee, I ordered the espresso, it being a smaller volume and surprisingly, I enjoyed it. The wifi was excellent and we completed all our transactions whilst being eaten alive by the mosquitos. Then we were into Carrefour for a French shopping frenzy. We loaded up with fresh fruit and veg, cheese, meats, tinned cassoulet and potato gratin and real beer. It was a struggle getting it all back to the dinghy and then fitting it in, with me balanced on top. We reached the boat and I clambered out onto the sugar scoop, with the dinghy rope in hand. I was just going to tie it off when I slipped and went sideways into the water, fully clothed. There was no damage other than a ripped off finger nail, as I hadn't let go of the rope. I blame the caffeine!
Having unloaded the shopping and dried off, we motored around the headland to Bouillante, which was described as idyllic with a hot spring. The town itself was ugly but the anchorage before the town was scenic and uncrowded. We went ashore to look around and were unimpressed. There were scores of people standing in the sea where the hot spring entered the water but it smelled very sulphurous. Back on board, we spent a lovely evening, listening to Spotify, via my EU data. We watched the boats swinging on their anchors, in the dark and it was disconcerting again but there was no need to move this time.
On the 2nd February, we lifted the dinghy and dropped the outboard handle protector sleeve in the water. Time for a little man overboard practice. Successfully recovered and we started motoring south, as there was no wind again. The island was pretty; verdant green hills and valleys, rocky coastline and coloured houses dotted here and there. At 0920, a small pod of dolphins passed 50 metres away from the boat but they didn't come over to play. As we reached the southwestern point of Guadeloupe, just before noon and passed the lighthouse, we picked up a little bit of breeze, so put up the cruising shute. We had 6 miles to go to reach Iles des Saintes, the small group of islands that lie to the south of Guadeloupe. We were living the dream, 4.5 knots speed over the ground (SOG), listening to country music on Spotify and Pete was probably having a beer! We arrived at Ilet de Cabrit and found that the small bay now had mooring buoys and there was only 1 remaining available. We picked it up at the first attempt, then lowered the dinghy and rowed ashore. The beach, which we had been told was lovely, was covered in clumps of black weed and old fishing nets, which was disappointing. We walked the beach and headed into the trees behind and settled down at a picnic table, under a shelter, to avoid the sun for a while. There we were approached by 3 ginger and white cats, of varying ages and sizes. I found this somewhat upsetting given the island is uninhabited but they looked fairly healthy, so must be getting by, either on titbits from tourists or being fed by fishermen. Back on board we were charged €13 for the use of the buoy. The buoy had a very large, metal ring on the top of it, which was hitting the boat, so we put the fender blanket round the bow and raised the buoy as high as possible, to prevent any damage. Then we had steak au poivre, with chips and salad for dinner, washed down with a nice bottle of red.
The following morning, we relocated to an anchorage opposite, close to Terre de Haut, anchoring close inshore, then went into town in the dinghy. We had a walk around the small, colourful town, browsed the little boutiques and gift shops and photographed the church, before calling into the Cafe de la Marine for coffee. I again had an espresso and enjoyed it. I used the facilities and could hear Pete ordering a glass of Sancerre while I was out of the way. It was just turned 11am! However, the wine was delicious and nicely chilled. We took the dinghy round to the beach to explore that end of town. It was Saturday and every restaurant was fully booked, not that we really needed to eat out but we thought it would be nice to enjoy some local snack, along with the view. In the end, we bought fish crepes (much like croquetas), 3 for €6 and took them back to the boat to have with our cheese, biscuits and dips. We returned to Cafe de la Marine for a sundowner and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
We had a relaxed start next morning and were probably the last boat to leave the islands heading north, as we could see a line of yachts and catamarans ahead. The cruising shute went up once we cleared Ilet de Cabrit and picked up a gentle breeze again. We sailed across the strait and continued to sail up the west coast of Guadeloupe until an hour south of Pigeon, when we lost the wind altogether. Our SOG varied from 2.5 to 5.2 knots but we weren't in any particular rush. The weather was mostly cloudy but warm and comfortable for most of the trip but very overcast by the time we reached the anchorage by the small boat harbour. An Aussie, passing in his dinghy, with his 2 dogs, commented on the grey day, as we were anchoring. We went ashore to the supermarket, only to find that they all closed at midday on Sundays. We were out of fresh provisions so had tinned cassoulet for dinner. The wind got up and the anchorage was extremely bouncy and rolling. I wanted to move into the shelter of the headland a mile south but Pete refused to up anchor and move when we had to return there in the morning. The Aussie and his wife moved. It was a horrendous night, rocking and rolling and crashing up and down and not a lot of sleep was had. I wasn't awoken by the cockerels starting their crowing at 2am.
We saw the Aussie again next morning, in the small boat harbour. Their night had been peaceful. He introduced himself as Dave and said they would be heading up to Des Haies today, as we were, to check out before going to Jolly Harbour the following day. We did our shopping, stocking up on camembert, other cheeses, French beer, wine and vegetables and motored the 10 miles north to Des Haies, where we picked up a mooring buoy, nipped into town and went to check out. The guy reviewed our check in paper and said we could go; nothing else was required. I picked up French bread and pain au chocolat at the boulangerie and we were back on board and departing before we could be charged for using the buoy. We motored round the headland to the next bay, where there was currently only 1 yacht and 1 cat at anchor. There was a little bit of swell coming in around the headland but nothing too uncomfortable. We had baked camembert, stuffed with garlic gloves for lunch and watched as more boats came in and anchored around us and the wind got up. We had anchored a good distance off the beach, as Pete was worried about the potential for an onshore breeze, which didn't materialise. It made for a long swim ashore and some decent exercise. The beach was lovely and sandy and very steep, backed by trees and a swampy lake. It was a popular place, with a large carpark and several small bars and restaurants back in the trees, which looked like they would be swarming with mosquitos. We swam back to the boat, against the tide. We were in our bunks by 7.45pm, tired after the previous night without sleep, with the alarm set for 5.45am.
At 6am we had just enough light to be able to pot watch as we left the anchorage and headed away from Guadeloupe. The number of pots was incredible and it was amazing that we didn't catch one. The forecast said we could have around 20-25 knots of wind today but there was a streak of blue and green on the chart between Antigua and Guadeloupe, which moved depending on which forecast you looked at. They all agreed that the wind would be generally from the south. Initially we had no wind at all and as we left Guadeloupe behind, the swell came at us from east by southeast, more or less on our beam. The wind was up and down and with it, the foresail and cruising shute were up and down but we rarely had enough wind to fill either sail, especially with the swell rocking the boat from side to side, so we ended up motoring most of the way and the swell increased as we progressed north. There was a stream of mainly catamarans behind us, everyone believing this was the day to head north and everyone was having the same struggle. Gradually everyone caught and passed us, with their power advantage. 8 miles south of Antigua, Dave and his wife came alongside on Joyful Surprise, almost getting her up on the plane coming across to us. We passed on advice about Jolly Harbour and said we would see them there and they powered away. After another couple of miles, we picked up 15 knots of breeze coming off Antigua and had a beautiful sail up the coast to Jolly, seeing quite a few turtles on our way through the shallow waters. We anchored near our usual spot, passing Joyful Surprise as we went down the channel, then Pete went ashore to check in while I tidied up the boat. He had been gone over an hour, so I swam across to see Jimbo and Lil. I was just about to swim back when Pete came into view in the dinghy. He had had a devil of a job at immigration because our passports hadn't been stamped in or out of Guadeloupe and then he had paid a quick visit to Derek and Linda, who were sitting on their terrace when he passed, having arrived the previous night. We had a beer or two on Freedom Girl. Jimbo and Lil said there had been 30 knot winds in Jolly all day and they had been worried about us sailing back in it, so they were surprised by our frustrating day. We then headed to the Eppie to buy take-away chicken, which we ate with Derek and Linda, while chatting until almost 11pm. I then had the best night's sleep on board.
It had been a great trip to Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes. It was just a shame that we didn't have time to head further south to Dominica, the jewel of the Caribbean.

Day Sail to Empty the Holding Tank

18 January 2024 | Seaworth's Bluff, Antigua
Donna Cariss
Wednesday 17th January was forecast to be a little less windy, so we planned to do a day sail so we could empty the holding tank in deep water, away from any beaches or anchorages. When we raised the anchor, which was really dug in, after the wind and covered in mud, there appeared to be very little wind. Having almost cleared the channel, we raised the foresail, turned off the engine and sailed slowly into safe water and towards the end of Five Islands. Pete went below to use the heads, leaving me on the helm and sheeting in the foresail as I turned gradually to starboard. The wind started to strengthen and as I cleared the islands hit 25 knots. Even on just the jib, I was overpowered. The wind was gusting and the angle changing through 90 degrees and back again, requiring a lot of concentration on helming, to keep wind in the sail but not heeling over uncomfortably. After what seemed like an age, Pete had finished in the heads and then dropped the tank. I didn't have a spare finger and thumb for holding my nose, unfortunately! Now to decide where to go and anchor. I couldn't steer far enough to Port to go to Deep Bay, so we decided to tack and go into the bay over the hill from Jolly Harbour. It took 3 tacks to get close to the anchorage, by which time I had been at the helm for 90 minutes, definitely a workout. Pete reeled in the sail and we motored towards the shore, watching our depth, as it's very shallow. We dropped the anchor when we chickened out. Besides us, there was just a small, chartered catamaran. The anchorage was shown as Seaforth's Bluff, on the chart. It was very pretty, with a curved, sandy beach, backed by mangroves and a swamp hidden behind. When lowering the dinghy, Pete found a dead fish in it, which had obviously landed there after jumping in the waves. Pete rowed us to the shore, against the wind. The hired skipper from the catamaran and his client came over in their dinghy to see whether we wanted a lift or a tow but Pete said he was getting some exercise. We had a walk up the beach, paddling in the water and investigated the pink picnic tables and wooden building frame which suggested a bar of some kind had been here at some point. The paint looked pretty fresh but there was nothing there. There were deep undulations in the sand, close to the shore, which looked unusual and a possible indication of currents or strong waves but the waves were lapping quite gently. We returned to the boat and ate the remains of last night's Al Porto pizza for lunch, had a swim and relaxed. It was more sheltered than Jolly Harbour and very peaceful, so we decided to stay the night. We cooked a pasta carbonara for tea and shared a bottle of red wine - Waitrose's mellow Spanish red, which costs about £4.50 and turned out to be Borsao!
I had thought about going skinny dipping when night fell but a French yacht arrived and anchored slightly behind and to the side of us. It was flying the yellow Q flag and had come from the north, so we assumed that it would be going into Jolly Harbour to check in next morning. As night fell, we could see the lights of St Johns and then Pete exclaimed at some very brightly coloured lights that had suddenly appeared. I looked round and said that it must be a massive cruise ship, ready to set sail and within seconds, it started to move. It was so big and bright that we could see its glow above the hills as it made its way out of the harbour. I thought we might see it head south but on checking Marine Traffic, I found that it was heading for St Kitts, to the northwest of Antigua.
I had a bad night. The anchor chain was rubbing and the current was causing a strange yank on the chain. I was worried we might drag, so was constantly up and down checking our position, relative to the yacht, the catamaran and the island. We were up at 8am and raised the anchor just before 9am, as we wanted to be back at anchor, in Jolly Harbour, before the wind became too strong. As we left, a truck arrived by the pink tables, so we thought that someone was coming to do some work on the cafe / bar but we were told later that it would be the people who brought their black pigs down to swim. I wish we had waited and seen that! We had a downwind sail towards Five Islands and then lost the wind altogether as we nipped between islands four and five, so put the engine on and rolled away the sail. The passage was narrow and shallow, so there was no room for a lack of control. From there, it wasn't far to the channel and we were soon at anchor in the same place as before. Freedom Girl wasn't there, so we assumed they had gone for water but then we spotted her at the opposite end of the beach, closer to the shore and closer to the marina, taking shelter, ready for the high winds to come.

Barbuda

09 January 2024 | Barbuda
Donna Cariss
On New Year's Eve, the day after I arrived, we went out for dinner at Arlecchino's, a seafood and steakhouse, on the waterfront, in Jolly Harbour. There was no special fancy menu or inflated prices for the occasion and we ate 2 courses and had a bottle of wine for about £120. The food (tuna cerviche, rib of beef and pork chop, with sides of creamed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes) was delicious. We will be eating there again before we leave Antigua to head across the Caribbean. We returned to the boat, out in the anchorage and watched the fireworks at midnight.
I spent the next few days settling in, getting used to the high prices in the supermarket and learning a few lessons e.g. only buy screw-top wine, as 50% of the bottles with corks are corked from standing up in the heat. Rum is ridiculously cheap, at about £8.50 for 1.75 litres but the ginger ale is around £3 for 2 litres and beer is cheaper than coca cola.
After 3 days of sun, sea and swimming, I was getting restless, so we decided to take a trip to Barbuda, part of the same country (Antigua and Barbuda) and about 35 miles north of Antigua. We departed at 0830 hours, on Thursday 4th January with no wind in the anchorage and the forecast showing around 8 knots once we cleared the shelter of Antigua. However, we started to pick up a little wind about 30 minutes after leaving and raised the sails, just as clouds of steam started pouring from the exhaust. We turned the engine off and Pete checked the engine compartments. The engine was red hot and the cooling water had boiled over. Once we cleared the island and were on a clear run, Pete pumped out the engine compartment. We put a long line out behind the boat and as the wind picked up to around 12 knots, we had a great sail. The swell increased as we moved out of the shelter as Antigua, which was to be expected as the easterly wind comes straight off the Atlantic. We had frigate birds soaring overhead, a wonderful sight, with their 3 metre wingspan. It wasn't long before we caught and landed a small tuna. Pete gutted it and put it in the fridge for later.
We were going to Spanish Point, the most south easterly point on Barbuda, which is surrounded by coral reefs and requires a lot of care. As we closed in, we went head to wind and dropped the mainsail. We needed to get as far as possible into the anchorage before starting the engine, in case it overheated again. I was on the helm and Pete was on the foredeck, looking out for the coral heads and reefs. It was a tricky sail, just under the foresail, with the wind almost directly behind us and a 2 metre swell. The boat was rolling with the swell and it was difficult to keep the foresail from collapsing, as we edged between the main reef to starboard and the smaller ones to port. I was relieved to turn to starboard with more wind in the sail and then Pete started the engine so we could motor in and drop anchor.
Some acquaintances from Jolly Harbour, Alex and Jess, were there and we swam over to say hello. They were just readying themselves to leave at 1600 hours on a 16 hour sail north to St Barts, which was a shame. We waved them off and watched them negotiate the reefs to the south and west. An hour later, Alex messaged to say they had dropped anchor at Cocoa Bay, as there wasn't enough wind, so they would wait another day. Pete checked the engine filters and found no blockages, so went over the side with the mask and snorkel to check the water inlet pipe, immediately finding a large, plastic bag, half in and half out of the pipe. We started the engine to check that the water was flowing and all was well.
Pete made tuna cerviche as an appetiser, which was delicious, being so fresh. The sun set and the stars came out. Other than the hotel, about 2 miles away, on the far side of the bay and a faint, distant glow from Antigua to the south there were no lights and the night sky was amazing in the dark.
The following morning, the 2 catamarans in the anchorage departed and we raised our anchor to move to the spot they vacated. An American woman, on the only remaining yacht (Idril), asked us if we were leaving already. Katy and her husband, Jerry, later came over to introduce themselves, as they headed out to snorkel on a reef beyond us and they invited us to go for a drink on their yacht around 4pm. We also spent an hour snorkelling on the reef, primarily looking for a lobster, which we didn't find. The reef was quite battered, probably from Hurricane Irma, a few years back but it was showing signs of recovery. There were colourful reef fish and lots of massive spiny urchins. I didn't have fins, so had to make sure I kept my feet well away from the reef and the seabed. In places, it was shallow enough to stand up. I saw a nice grouper, backed into a hole in the coral and on our way back to the boat, we saw four stingrays, one of which was right under the boat. Pete snorkelled again, later, on a smaller reef and found a lobster but it was lobster 1, Pete nil, as he lost his gaffe trying to hook the lobster from its very deep hole in the coral head. A speed boat came hurtling through the anchorage, in front of the boat, while Pete was snorkelling and I screamed at it, pointing to where Pete was. Luckily, as he was on the reef, they didn't hit him.
A British flagged cat came in and touched the bottom, just around where our anchor was lodged. This was followed, shortly after, by a yacht called Blue Moon, which also touched the bottom, before turning round and heading further afield. As he passed between us and Idril, I realised the man was naked, so perhaps he was just putting on a performance. Three people from the cat came over to say hello, Jamie and Jill, plus son Jack. Julie and Sophie remained on board. We assumed Sophie wasn't related, as her name didn't begin with a J!
Just after 4pm, we rowed the dinghy over to Idril for drinks with Jerry and Katy. It turned out that we were all planning to move to Low Bay, on the northwest side of Barbuda, the following day and they said they had booked a guide for the frigate bird reserve on Sunday, if we wanted to join them. The government set fee was US$50 for up to 4 people. However, we would need to go by dinghy from the anchorage at Low Bay, through the gap in the reef and across the bay to Codrington, a distance of over 2.5 miles and we had no fuel for the outboard, as the fuel dock at Jolly Harbour had run out. It would be impossible to row that distance.
On Saturday, Idril left before us. We departed at 10am, under engine and wound our way through the reefs until we hit clear water and then raised the foresail only. Cocoa Bay looked lovely as we passed by. Pete put out the long line again, in hope of catching another fish and after making an 8 degree turn to starboard, there was a might struggle on the end of the line. We had caught an 18 inch barracuda. It had impressive teeth and it was difficult to get the hook out of its mouth safely. Eating large barracuda can be dangerous, as they harbour toxins from eating reef fish. We decided that this one would be small enough to eat, so into the fridge it went. As we were approaching Low Bay, passing on the inside of Nine Feet Bank, with our shoal draft keel, a bottlenose dolphin, with her calf, passed directly in front of us, very close to the boat. Pete also saw a large turtle but I missed it. We sailed behind Idril, anchored south of the gap in the reef, created by Hurricane Irma and continued beyond the hotel which was devastated by the hurricane. The roof and terraces lie in pieces on the shore. We dropped anchor in 2.8 metres of water, about 150 metres off the beach, having motored in to see how quickly the depth dropped off. It was an idyllic setting. We had barracuda, potato and bean soup for lunch, delicious and then swam ashore. It was very hot on the beach but we were able to dip in and out of the water to cool off as we walked north, to the end of the bay. This coast is famous for its pink sand and we were lucky enough to see this towards the top end of the beach. The swim back to the boat was quicker and easier, with the tide behind us. The evening sunshine was lovely and the sunset beautiful but we didn't see the green flash. Just before sunset, Jerry and Katy moved to anchor beside us, ready to go to Codrington in the morning.
Katy was unable to contact the guide, so we went ashore in their dinghy, with the 15 horsepower outboard. There was quite a swell and we were soaked. It was a challenge finding the gap through the reef, as the buoy marking it wasn't very large but we made it through and across the lagoon to the dock. There we found a guide with a boat, Kevin, who could take us to the frigate bird colony, for the price if US$60. It was a fast ride out, heading north to the mangroves and we spent about 30 minutes touring around, almost within touching distance of the nesting birds. The males were puffing up their red voice boxes and making a drumming sound, to attract a female. The males build a nest and the females choose their mate based on how well the nest is constructed. We saw two new-born chicks, one still being kept warm by its mother and another just old enough to sit beside its mother on the nest. The sight of the birds soaring in the air over the colony was amazing. It was a great trip and lovely to be the only people there. On the way back, Kevin showed us how much of the mangroves were destroyed in the hurricane, also taking the lives of many birds.
Back at the dock, Kevin directed us to the town store and we bought a beer and some biscuits, which we consumed sitting on the steps of the old tourist office. We asked a local man, Olsen, about a taxi and guide to visit the Darby Cave, a 300 metre wide and 70 metre deep sinkhole that has stalagmites and is full of palm trees and other tropical plants. Olsen went off to find his friend who could guide us. Olsen's van had 3 little seats in the back and a wooden box. Pete sat on the box. We haggled the price down to US$25 per person and off we went. It was slow going, as the roads are terrible. We passed many coloured houses, including one in bright yellow with red trims; very attractive. There were donkeys roaming everywhere, including on the lawn in front of the police station. We turned off route 1 and the road became a track. Eventually we parked up and started the 30 minute walk to the sinkhole, pausing at an old fort to take in the view out to sea. It was a winding walk, in and out of bushes, cacti and small trees, over red earth and rocks. I ended up with three holes in my left knee after being stabbed by sharp plants but they didn't bleed for long. We arrived at the edge of the hole and it was a great sight. We elected to descend down into the hole, a tricky climb down over rocks while holding onto tree branches. There were lots of hermit crabs, called dragons, bright red with sharp claws. The climb back up, taking the same route, was easier. We were decidedly hot and sweaty by the time we arrived back at the van for the bumpy return to Codrington. The sea had flattened with the turn of the tide so the journey back in the dinghy wasn't so wet but we did encounter a single wave of well over 1 metre in height that could have turned us over. Back on board Muirgen, we all had a beer and then a swim to cool off and wash off the red grime from the earth. Pete saw a large turtle at the stern, which surfaced, burped and the dived after spotting Pete. It was a slightly roly night at anchor.
Monday was an uneventful day at anchor, swimming, reading and relaxing. Jerry and Katy took the sea taxi into Codrington to check out and left for Saint Croix before lunchtime. At teatime, we were swarmed by flying beetles, so I retired below with my pasta. As evening fell, the bugs were everywhere on deck and in the cockpit but luckily not down below. Pete hoovered them up as best he could. Despite the flying insects, I had my best night's sleep yet.
Next morning we were up and preparing to sail down to Cocoa Bay. As I removed the sail cover, I was showered in the flying bugs, that had been caught inside last night. I expect we will be finding them for weeks. At 0900 hours we lifted the anchor, which was well dug in and raised the foresail to sail south, back through the inside of Nine Feet Bank and through the reefs. Pete had wanted to stay another night at Low Bay but I wanted to see everywhere on the island. However, when we reached the point, I realised that Pete was right and it would be a hard sail, into the wind, with a decent swell, to go east. I could see Antigua rising in the distance so suggested we just carried on and found somewhere there to anchor overnight. Pete sulked for the first couple of hours, as we hadn't prepared the boat for the open sea and we didn't have the mainsail up, which would have given us a bit more stability. Ideally, we would have raised the dinghy higher at the stern of the boat. We added extra lines to tie it down and stop it moving side to side. The trip was definitely exhilarating; a bit like the north sea but warm and sunny! Eventually Pete cheered up and forgave me my sins. Due to the wind angle, we went round the west side of Sandy Island, so didn't go into an anchorage, just straight to Jolly Harbour, where we filled up with water and outboard fuel at the dock. It was 1602 and they closed at 1600 but they agreed to serve us eventually; just this once. We anchored next to Freedom Girl, Jimbo and Lil's cat and headed over in the dinghy to pay our dues for the beer and gas they had brought us while we were away. We had a couple of cold ones, sitting on their foredeck in the sun, recounting our trip.
Vessel Name: Muirgen
Vessel Make/Model: Westerly Typhoon
Hailing Port: Hull
Crew: Donna and Peter Cariss
Muirgen's Photos - Main
29 Photos
Created 4 February 2024
22 Photos
Created 4 February 2024
32 Photos
Created 24 January 2024
31 Photos
Created 24 January 2024
14 Photos
Created 27 December 2023
9 Photos
Created 11 September 2023
15 Photos
Created 11 September 2023
44 Photos
Created 11 September 2023
13 Photos
Created 9 August 2023
9 Photos
Created 9 August 2023
10 Photos
Created 9 August 2023
12 Photos
Created 9 August 2023
9 Photos
Created 19 July 2023
10 Photos
Created 19 July 2023
66 Photos
Created 14 July 2023
10 Photos
Created 14 July 2023
3 Photos
Created 24 May 2023
65 Photos
Created 20 September 2022
56 Photos
Created 9 July 2022
13 Photos
Created 7 July 2022
7 Photos
Created 18 April 2022
19 Photos
Created 3 April 2022
22 Photos
Created 3 April 2022
3 Photos
Created 10 September 2021
3 Photos
Created 10 September 2021
4 Photos
Created 2 October 2020
16 Photos
Created 26 September 2020
13 Photos
Created 23 September 2020
11 Photos
Created 27 August 2020
27 Photos
Created 25 August 2020
9 Photos
Created 25 August 2020
11 Photos
Created 18 August 2020
16 Photos
Created 15 August 2020
22 Photos
Created 15 August 2020
18 Photos
Created 10 August 2020
10 Photos
Created 7 August 2020
20 Photos
Created 3 August 2020
14 Photos
Created 3 August 2020
20 Photos
Created 27 July 2020
10 Photos
Created 26 July 2020
29 Photos
Created 18 July 2020
5 Photos
Created 18 July 2020
12 Photos
Created 18 July 2020
Photos of Muirgen preparations
8 Photos
Created 12 July 2020
39 Photos
Created 11 August 2017
52 Photos
Created 6 August 2017
35 Photos
Created 6 August 2017
10 Photos
Created 6 August 2017
26 Photos
Created 6 August 2017
4 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
13 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
14 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
5 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
10 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
6 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
13 Photos
Created 21 July 2017
30 Photos
Created 1 July 2017
15 Photos
Created 23 June 2017
Photos are limited as the weather was dreadful and was mostly a white out. Photos are from the phone as too wet to take the cameras.
10 Photos
Created 19 June 2017
9 Photos
Created 17 June 2017
11 Photos
Created 15 June 2017
17 Photos
Created 15 June 2017
The Beautiful Kvitsoy
5 Photos
Created 5 June 2017
Weekend with Hommersak Divers at Kvitsoy
8 Photos
Created 5 June 2017
13 Photos
Created 30 May 2017
Mad creatures
16 Photos
Created 29 May 2017
Getting to Norway and waiting for Donna to fly out
6 Photos
Created 18 May 2017
12 Photos
Created 6 December 2016
Buying Muirgen
6 Photos
Created 26 November 2016